When I see these words from the O Little Town of Bethlehem I am struck by their expression of the tension of faith. There is always in our faith as believers a tension between what it is, that we hope for and also the fear that our faith won’t meet our hopes. At the time of Jesus’ birth there had been nearly four hundred years since the last word from God through a prophet. Then the first word was not actually a word, but the Word, become flesh. There was not a word by cries and coos. God sent the Word.
I can only imagine the hopes of the people deferred for centuries. The fears that maybe God had grown silent, distant, or unconcerned. While this tension is real, God was doing just the opposite. God was not becoming silent, distant, or unconcerned, rather God was writing the story in the stars, becoming personal in Jesus, and showing love through God’s great gift of Jesus. The place of this humble miraculous birth was the town of Bethlehem. The name of the town Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” God has provided the Bread of Life, in Jesus.
The name Immanuel means God with Us, and Jesus means He will Save. The hopes and fears, the tension of all of creation, human longing, and faith are found in Jesus. As we are in the season of Advent now two thousand years since Jesus’ was physically on earth. Are there hopes of his return? Yes! Are there fears that our faith is unfounded, and Jesus is not coming back? Yes! When we look to this little town of Bethlehem, we are able to see in that quite unexpected place, the hopes and fears of all the years were met in thee tonight.
Hold on dear friend God sent His Son and we know that God is faithful. God did it before and promises to send Jesus back again. We are hopeful and fearful, but let’s always remain faithful. In God’s time Christ will return and the hopes and fears of all the years will be realized. There will no longer be a deferred hope or fear of God’s silence, distance, or unconcern. There will be hope realized and fears relinquished as the hopes and fears of all of the years will be met in Christ. Remain faithful through the tension of hopes and fears, for God is with us.